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To Mothers Sending Their Sons Off to College

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Joe’s Prom 2019

“What do you want for dinner tonight, Joe?” There was a lump in my throat.

He didn’t hesitate for a second before he answered, “Sunday sauce.”

That’s my boy. I knew we raised him right

His dad and I bring him to college tomorrow and I want this last meal of sorts to be special for him and all of us.

I’ve got to admit, I’ve been pretty cavalier about the whole thing up until now. I’ve read all the posts my mom friends have shared about this day, but I’ve felt removed from it all. I think I may have been trying to forget my day would come too. As drop off day looms closer, I’m allowing the reality of this milestone to wash over me

Yesterday morning I found myself crying in the laundry detergent aisle in Costco. “My baby is off to college,” I said to a perfect stranger thinking perhaps saying it out loud would soften the blow. It didn’t.

“Congratulations,” she said. “My babies are 30 and 32.” We were compatriots in a very special club and I felt a moment of reassurance that I will get through this. I will.

I didn’t see Joe very much this summer. He partied hard with his friends and girl friend. I was happy to see him unwind and have fun. I was happy for him but I see now I was also avoiding the fact that he’s a young man now who needs his mommy just a bit less these days.

It’s a funny thing....

I don’t want him to “need” me, that’s a bullshit dependence I don’t want him burdened with. I pray he will WANT me. That he will want to call me for a laugh; ask my advice; tell me about his latest great accomplishment; complain about some injustice that has befallen him; or that sometimes he might simply want to hear my voice.

It’s a big hope but I’m going for it and making a promise to myself that I will forever remain a positive, upbeat cheering section for both of my sons. I want them to look forward to coming home always and not have it be some kind of obligation.

I am also promising myself that when when the time comes that they are so tied up in their own lives that they forget to call or text, I will not feel hurt or resentful because I will be living my own life too. I’m hoping that there may be an occasion or two when I have other plans and I can’t meet up with them. I need them to know I’m ok on my own. I never want them to be burdened by the fear that I’m alone. I am not. I will always have my men with me.

This morning I told the cashier at my local salumaria that I’m making Sunday sauce for my son before I bring him to college. She was about 17 and looked at me as if I were crazy. At this point, I’m exploring the notion that perhaps I am.

When the baker asked me what I wanted inscribed on Joe’s favorite cake that I was picking up for dessert I said, “Good Luck, Joe.”

I could barely get the words out.

I have never been prouder or happier but that happy pride comes with a punch in my gut that is taking my breath away when I least expect it.

“Joe is off to college,” I said like she knew him.

“Ohhhhhh, I’m sorry. That’s tough. My daughter starts Kindergarten next week,” she said.

“Cherish these moments, they go so fast,” I said with tears streaming.

I was instantly transported to that day. Joe’s little hand squeezing mine as I walked him into preschool in Ralph Lauren khakis, an Oxford and a sweater tied around his neck.

Luca was balanced on my hip and was the blessing who kept me standing as I let go of my first born for the first time. He is still that blessing and a gift in his own right.

We will miss Joe so much and it will be hard for us to get used to another empty place at the dinner table but I’m also looking forward to these next important years of Luca’s life as a teenager and watching Joe shine all on his own for the first time. We will survive.

I owe the gift of Luca, my younger son, mostly to Joe because after years of infertility and heartache I never dreamed I’d have a second child.

“I’m alone in the world,” Joe said after a week of preschool. He was always emotionally intelligent and because there was nothing I wouldn’t do for this child I ran to NYU IVF as fast as I could and out of that came our Luca.

Joe is a gift who keeps on giving even when he doesn’t know it. He’s never given his dad or me an ounce of trouble except for leaving shoes scattered about, leaving dirty dishes in the sink and dropping his wet towels on the bed. I’ve vigorously complained like a broken record but I don’t know how I’m going to feel next week when I find a clean, empty bedroom and I can safely get out of the house without tripping over a pile of sneakers.

I’ve bought a case of rosé in preparation. Don’t judge.

I’m hoping some moms read at least part of my soliloquy and feel a connection and know we are not alone. We are card carrying members of yet another distinguished club.

I knew this day was coming. I never dreamed it would come so fast.

Good luck, Joe. I’ll be right here with a pot of sauce whenever you want me.

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